FIVE FORMER SAINTS ARE PLAYING IN MLB ORGANIZATIONS

The Seward County Community College baseball program currently has five former players playing in the Minor Leagues for Major League Baseball organizations. Former Saints in the minor leagues are Jared Cranston (Giants), Jason Van Kooten (Rockies), Danny Vais (Twins), Cory Patton (Blue Jays) and Anthony Pannone (Giants). The Saints baseball program has been under the guidance of Head Coach Galen McSpadden for the past 25 years. In his career as head coach he has mentored 73 players (71 since 1993) who have been selected or who have signed professional contracts with Major League Baseball organizations.

Cranston is the most recent Saint to sign the dotted line with a MLB organization. After being re-drafted this year by the Giants, Cranston opted to sign professionally rather than return to the University of Nebraska, where Cranston finished his junior season with the Huskers this past spring. Cranston pitched for the Saints from 2003-2005, and is tied for second all-time in SCCC history with 101 strikeouts in a single season (2005).

This year Cranston is pitching in the Northwest League for the Single A (Short Season) Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Keizer, Oregon) where he has pitched in five games with a 1-0 record, collecting seven strikeouts and 5.14 earned run average (ERA), since joining the team on July 9. Cranston and the Volcanoes currently have a four game lead in their division with a 29-14 overall record.

Van Kooten is completing his second full professional season in the Colorado Rockies organization. He had a stellar first full season with the Rockies in the Northwest League being named the league’s Hitter of the Week for July 11-18, 2005. Van Kooten also recorded a league best 17 game-road hitting streak in his first full season as a pro. This year Van Kooten is playing with the Rockies single A affiliate, Asheville Tourists (Asheville, NC) where he is among South Atlantic League leaders in batting average (.273- 24th in the league) and stolen bases (17- 27th in the league).

In 2004, Van Kooten helped lead the Saints to their first ever NJCAA World Series. Van Kooten started for the Saints at shortstop and led the team with a .443 batting average (94-for-212) and set a school record with 12 triples.

With a month remaining in their regular season, Van Kooten and the Tourists are in third place, 10.5 games out of first place. Van Kooten has played in 75 games with 42 runs scored, 15 doubles, 2 home runs, 26 RBI, 21 walks and a .345 on base percentage while playing primarily at shortstop and third base.

Another member of the Saints 2004 World Series team, Danny Vais, is one of the top relievers for the Minnesota Twins Single A Beloit Snappers this season. Vais has been lights out coming from the bullpen with a sparkling 1.99 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. Vais’ impressive ERA ranks him fourth in the Midwest League this year and his 34 appearances rank him 11th among league leaders. Vais has struck out 55 batters and owns a 3-3 record.

Vais was selected as an NJCAA All-American following his freshman season at Seward County. After pitching for the Saints in the 2004 NJCAA World Series, Vais signed his professional contract with the Minnesota Twins. He owns the all-time single season records for strikeouts (119 in 2003) and innings pitched (112 in 2003). In addition, Vais holds the career strikeout record with 220 in his two-year career. Vais and the Snappers are two games out of first place in the Western Division.

Cory Patton shattered the Saints all-time record books during his sophomore season at Seward County in 2002, before transferring to Texas A&M where he finished his collegiate career. Patton is still swinging a hot bat this season in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Patton started the season playing in the Midwest League for the Single A Lansing Lugnuts, but was promoted on June 22 to play in the Florida State League for the Dunedin Blue Jays (Dunedin, Florida). Combining Patton’s statistics from teams this year he has 99 games played, .271 batting average (105-for-387), 57 runs scored, 26 doubles, 3 triples, 14 home runs, 72 RBI, 26 walks and six stolen bases.

In just over two months of action at Lansing, Patton’s numbers ranked him in the Top 20 of the league in doubles (19), home runs (10), RBI (44) and slugging percentage (.510 %).

Patton was named the NJCAA National Player and Male Student Athlete of the Year in 2002 at Seward County. He hit .454 (108-for-238) with 22 doubles, three triples, 31 home runs, 120 RBI in 65 games during his sophomore season. He was also named Region VI Most Valuable Player, Jayhawk West Most Valuable Player and received the Central District Big Stick Award.

Anthony Pannone is currently in his sixth year with the San Francisco Giants organization after signing a professional contract after his sophomore season at Seward County in 2001. Pannone has moved up and down the Giants organization moving up as high as Double A last year. This season Pannone is in High A with the San Jose Giants in the California League. Pannone has only been with the team since July 16, after spending the beginning portion of the season in extended spring training. Pannone has pitched in five games logging a 3.38 ERA with seven strikeouts (no walks) and has allowed nine base hits.

In 2001, Pannone’s stock was on the rise throwing a mid-90’s fastball while being one of the Saints top pitchers that season. In 2001 he recorded a 3.69 ERA in 68.1 innings pitched. He was second on the team with 65 strikeouts and was 4-5 with two saves on the mound.